LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland had the highest drug-related death rate in the European Union in 2018, with the likes of heroin, methadone and cocaine killing at almost three times the rate of the United Kingdom as a whole.

A report published by National Records of Scotland on Tuesday said a record 1,187 people died from drugs in 2018, up 27% on the year before, giving a rate of 213 per million.

That compares with 23 per million in the European Union, and 74 per million for the UK as the whole.

Dr Saket Priyadarshi, a medical director for addictions in Scotland, told a parliamentary committee last month that Scottish drug users typically use depressant drugs, often with alcohol, “which really predispose people to overdoses”.

Heroin and/or morphine potentially contributed to 45% of the deaths in 2018 – the number for methadone was 47% and for cocaine was 23%. Most of the deaths occurred after people had taken a mixture of different drugs.

Priyadarshi also pointed to Scotland’s ageing population as a factor in the worsening numbers – the number of drug-related deaths in 2018 was the largest recorded and more than double the number recorded a decade ago.

The ageing process makes drug users more susceptible to diseases which in turn makes them more vulnerable to over-doses.

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said the government was seeking to prevent drug use in order to eliminate the crime associated with it.

(Reporting by Freddie Hayward; editing by Kate Holton)